tv A Postcard from Pyongyang Deutsche Welle July 12, 2020 9:15pm-10:00pm CEST
in 2012 the world's press was full of reports about north korea dictator kim jong il had died in december 27th and now everyone was wondering what north korea would be like under the leadership of his son 28 year old kim jong un. an old asian proverb says seeing with your own eyes is better than hearing a 1000 reports so in early 2013 my friend philip and i decided to visit north korea the 1st challenge lay in actually booking the trip. we normally plan our trips abroad ourselves but individual tourism doesn't exist in north korea even booking the entry and departure arranged. it's are dealt with by
a state agency. before entering the country we had to sign a paper declaring that our visit had no journalistic purpose. we had to get permission if we wanted to take photos and film and sound recordings were forbidden . all the following material was shot on a camera with a built in video function. i hid the blinking red recording light with black sticky tape we were only vaguely aware of the hot water we might end up in but we still wanted to smuggle as much footage as possible back to germany. but then we still haven't really worked out what to do with it. there are several ways to get to north korea we decided on a 25 hour train journey from beijing to pyongyang
1. when we arrived in pyongyang we were met at the station by 2 guides they were to be something like our guards for the next 7 days. young yang has 3000000 inhabitants and only 2 hotels for foreign visitors we were booked into the choreo hotel. it looked like we were to be given a private guided tour of the nation's achievements we would be driven from door to door and not allowed to go out without our cars. for the turns it's do you have your client tickets flights back to germany yes you eat
to kids. get sick here's from pyongyang to beijing. ok and here and here from beijing to munich. didn't go you will not need your hospitals within north korea it's not true does it when you have a north korean guy and you don't need a possible so you can go anywhere but you are not allowed to leave the hotel without your guides as. i said i do. i can show you all the places of interest. and that is what we will do just to get through this. there was a lot of excitement in the hotel lobby it was the 27th of july 2013 victory day. many international guests have come here especially for this event it marks the end of the korean war which lasted from 1950 to 1953. the fighting was brought to a close by the signing of an armistice agreement. but
we were always alone in the bus because we had booked in individual trips because that means we had the whole tour bus to ourselves apart from our on the present minders lethal. to north korea get support from the world hunger relief organization have you heard that is a true. schol. nearly all developing countries getting help. but i don't really know a lot of it doesn't play such a bleak role looking to sleep because i don't know where world hunger aid actually operates from. i don't know where the whole people live on. nothing. at least a few months he didn't mean you don't see them now no. we soon realized that
conversations of this kind were barely possible whenever we started a discussion with one of our guides the other one would often jump in and stop it and we got the feeling they weren't only keeping tabs on us but also on each other of course we couldn't ask that at least not if we wanted to leave the country in one piece with our footage. once we got back home we asked dr lou to get proc a professor of east asian economy and society at the university of vienna about it if anyone can explain how north korea works it's him this is north korea as it was mentioned you might also know that one hour in north korea people who deal with foreigners are rarely able to do so alone but always at least in pairs and the whole point of this is mutual surveillance they both also have to write reports about their encounters the reports are then compared and checked to see if there are any inconsistency so that you can never be sure whether you as
a north korean who has had contact with a foreigner have gone unobserved that is also a very effective system of self-censorship since. north and south korea are separated by the so-called d.m.z. the demilitarized zone on the way there we hardly met any cars coming toward us which wasn't surprising because nobody can cross the border in either direction anyway. do you do that was use the demilitarized zone is a 2 kilometer wide strip on either side of an imaginary demarcation line in other words a 4 kilometer wide strip of stretching about 250 kilometers across the korean peninsula from one coast to the other it was created to guarantee the ceasefire in the korean war and is now still the defacto border between the 2 koreas. get into the school
year cletus. at one point you can walk or drive through the d.m.z. and get directly to the demarcation line zones do you know are there of the sky blue barracks where cease fire negotiations took place in 1951 to 53 and where talks between both sides are still taking place today for the border runs right through the middle of these barracks so you have a kind of neutral area so to speak. where officials can talk to each other without officially having to enter each other's country no. but we still didn't really understand how reunification was supposed to work. what did the citizens of this rigidly socialist state with its on the present leadership cold imagine a unified korea would look like. would it be a capitalist country. that when south and north reunite we wanted to be one nation and one government with 2 systems that we want our own
sovereignty and a peaceful reunification bringing together the entire nation i do not see punch time slices to 2 systems socialism and capitalism to governments just. to give. thanks of concern to you think you could work this kind of indians with just him as nuisance and he could work in fact it has to. i think it can work because nobody will be oppressed science and i can everyone can own their own property just to the south korea can remain capitalist and we can still be socialist but both united. and you think it will work it will be the best way for us ever could you imagine relinquishing socialism in the interest of reunification of the burdens as it is could you imagine that you understood that if he does it he will foster. but as you pointed out what it just
hypothetically as a movement of force just an idea of hostile to. this man's acts. and to. see him defy them you would reunite but you would have to give up socialism in order to be reunited all students in just about a fist would you do that just because to me. do you believe south korea would ever adopt socialism need to become one nation again it's just that. you don't want to have a month. our question went on answered nobody had overheard our conversation and our watchdog had only expressed loyalty to the regime nevertheless a new guide turned up in the evening. we could only assume that the old one had decided to avoid us. that was a bit odd because in fact we got on well with our guides we even found out about
their private lives. i said being on the road with tourists for up to 2 weeks at a time must have been exhausting and inquired how they coped with it. one guy had said his marriage had collapsed so the job actually suited him. another told me about his 4 year old daughter we missed and who like my niece like disney films basically the same discussions we had at home. but at least we could get a personal glimpse into north koreans every day lives. the u.s. air force dropped an estimated 450000 tons of bombs and more than 30000 tons of napalm on north korea during the war some 90 percent of pyongyang was destroyed you can see the scale of the devastation in today's cityscape. we berliners may be
familiar with socialist architecture from east germany but yang looks like a combination of the 1970 s. and some futuristic science fiction vision. at 1st glance we couldn't make out any sort of social infrastructure at all and would have been lost without our guides which wasn't the sort of thing we normally experienced. once we were back in berlin we talked to philip morris who is an architect and also the editor of the architectural and cultural guide to pyongyang. you know isn't it starts the food and coolio before the korean war young yang was a homogeneous old sitting in the creek is the it doesn't look east but after the war they changed the entire city beyond all recognition and vanity completely sweeping away the old structures wouldn't the time. in the one to be an ownership rights one a problem because the state on everything anyway the way it can is it
a plan of the moment this was great for the city planners who could finally plan things the way they want to create utopias. so that's what happened here these narrow winding alley that's replaced by white main roads and modern the story buildings the. architecture and ideology are inextricably entwined in north korea beyond yang's new urban design took its orientation from the tate on the river and laid down myriad axes connecting the most important monuments by line of sight. the most important visual access links the so-called grand monument of monsoon hill with the one commemorating the foundation of the north korean communist party. summary street is the city's main artery. it connects the victory arch with monsoon hill. and the symbolic center of pyongyang kim il sung square. from
there you can look across the river to do che tower and the eastern part of the city. symbols of the kim dynasty as personality cult are everywhere. time and again we came across portraits life size wax figures or statues of the 3 generations of supreme leaders i mean have you ever bowed down to a statue wearing a parka. in this respect our visit to the 20 meter tall grand monument on month to hill was an absolute highlight. all visits follow
a strict procedure. the deep obligatory so we saved ourselves the trouble of questioning this out loud and did everything we were told to do after all it was strictly forbidden to film without the knowledge of the guides. so we didn't want to attract any unnecessary scrutiny. ok don't point. he. just. greg ole the flowers there please and come back to us then we will bounce together . in addition to kowtow ing you also have to buy a bunch of plastic flowers each time you visit frequently fake pink or red orchids
later we noticed the flowers were collected up and brought back to the stand to be sold again. i next stop. square which covers an area of 75000 square meters and is used as a parade ground it's an incredible amount of open space in the middle of the city. numerous small white dots and numbers have been painted on the ground so that everyone knows what to do during a parade. if you look across the river you can see that tower the monument to north korea's official cult of self-reliance. 170 meters tall it commemorates the great
achievements of the country's 1st supreme leader kim il sung who's founded the jew che ideology in the fifty's now it has grown into a quasi religion and the deceased kims are worshipped like deities. as you can imagine the jew che ideology is at the very heart of the north korean system it also gives its name to the calendar used here which is calculated from the year of kim il sung's birth. let's go extinct belief. and myself your religion i am myself here in myself so still if you don't know any words and all you see i'm actually crist but you're not the best chris probably go maybe for you that's the most boring us believe the court christian communities what's in the east let me close here scott it's what you know country would be nice to idea yeah ok so you know kind of the church ids
it's not a religion the only it is the religion it means then there is you. have you read some of them will be made in many of them many and ensuring the university we still are citizens objects is one substance ok ok so what does it say you. are socially east east the one that's on. is the one that initiate the church idea how socialism is how social mission isa work owns tyson she lives and it is men since institutions and it is just a young man is the owner of everything and you must have. what decides everything yes if you take the. yeah we have a similar history as your country and all countries from 2 fool to relieve my needs because of several what cæsar is of the north korean schools create what issues for us i do know is sort of politics i'm not so interested in politics invoking the
economy with the idea it either is for a different message in what's in soft grey sketch can be used yes they only think of money but you know countries to keep the solution is we want to think of our men our leaders our party but didn't care whose face was what we didn't care the only thing the money so i used to be different and economies are so difficult just different they maybe have a tool of deeds i mean economy and commitment to. and the beast in that is much higher than on a scale. you think so it's high yes i think so if you know for instance how do you know how do you know i think we've learned we've learned it in past times we've heard we've done that's the scariest rabbit what's for it and what's not to be looked at but afterward maybe 10 years later it need to be looked at my watch and you need to watch t.v. news in some foreigners say that's the sanskrit script to the teeth what's economy
pick up because they fear a hard story to measure the bankers and hurts me to think they're going to deliver english listeners a great managers are going to have time. off to our next appointment which was one of the most exciting of our whole trip. there was a huge crowd here and there was a lot of excitement in the air. 2 soldiers led some guy away obviously against his will. but there was no time to find out more because all wrong was starting. all wrong i have never
seen such an impressive artistic performance. more than 100000 people took part in this display of dance and gymnastics. thousands of children in the terraces held up colored cards creating a sort of mosaic effect. then they all flipped them at the same time and formed a new pattern. the army wrong festival takes place in the one grotto 1st of may stadium which is said to hold $100114.00 people and is the biggest in the world.
day. among young day children's palace is run by the youth core of north korea and offers members of the young pioneer movement the chance to take part in a wide range of extracurricular activities some 4000 children attend its classes schools like this play a crucial role in north korean education. was. that. we were taken to various classrooms or groups of children were already waiting for us. music sports dance arts and crafts the children some of them still quite young amaze us
i. i. it didn't take us long to realize how hard it was to get any real idea of this country of staged sue purgatives. we asked a lot of questions but could rarely choose the topics. that's probably why we left north korea feeling we knew even less than we had when we arrived. of course our experiences only scratched the surface of what life in north korea is really like. i felt i was edging closer to an answer. what it must be like to live in a totalitarian state where you can't express your opinions openly and have to play out of fear of punishment in fact i was really relieved when i got on the plane
back to beijing filming in secret had been a huge strain but now it was lifted. i was left with. that would remain with me for a long time to come. it was an exciting trip but i didn't think i would be back to north korea any time soon. that is until i found out you could also. after all i had recently been part of a team that had run through the desert from los angeles to las vegas running is my passion so why not a marathon in pyongyang it's the only way to get around the city without a chaperone. but this year growing tensions between
north korea and the us threaten to prevent us from going back there at all. as we prepared to leave both countries were engaged in an aggressive war of words. so just in case we registered on the german foreign offices crisis preparedness website. when we arrived we meet our watchdogs for the next 2 weeks. yeah yeah yeah i don't think the idea that embraced all the green was really really not. a lot seemed to have changed since our visit in 2013 new residential areas had been built and pyongyang was no longer completely blacked out. at least not on the days before and after the marathon that's a new skyscraper there right wow it's huge the one with the lights in the back.
very beautiful and. during our 1st night at the hotel i started to feel sick probably something i'd eaten in the past 24 hours. still we managed to visit the subway it's the deepest underground railway network in the world. be. riding the subway in pyongyang as a highlight for every berliner at the end of the ninety's early and sold several subway trains to north korea and they're still in service today. i
feel i . on the escalator i notice a very pleasant contrast to our stations at home the lack of advertising. nothing was screaming out at us to buy things instead of advertising posters the walls were faced with elaborately designed mosaics although their colorful motifs were steeped in official propaganda. apart from the portraits of kim il sung and his son kim jong il the carriages were still in their original condition the windows still even had the scratches left by
the removal of graffiti back in berlin the underground system was started in the late sixty's and now has around 30 stations during our visit i started to feel even worse and had an accident on the escalator i headed straight back to the hotel. the kind of an issue though unfortunately this morning i had a massive stomach problem after breakfast to see the limit that's unleashed on cook when we went to the subway and that is down the escalator and i couldn't hold it any more and this gastro intestinal bug whatever it is has really hit me. the only problem is i'm supposed to run the marathon tomorrow. i'll wait until tomorrow morning but it can't go on like this the most let's see what the night brings and.
it was april 12th 2017. the day of the 4th marathon in pyongyang where foreigners could take part this year was special before the participants had to run for 10 kilometer laps around the stadium now for the 1st time the course took us 21 kilometers around the city and back again. but because of the bug my stomach was empty and i was really to hydrated. the news. when we entered the stadium for the 1st time we saw a crowd of some 40000 had turned out to cheer us on.
left the stadium and ran past the victory arch. people were at the roadside cheering the runners on. i can only guess who was ordered to be here and who was here voluntarily. all that mattered to me right now is that they were here to give us. some support. you know kilometer 7 and i'm still doing ok. thank you me there have now got 16 kilometers behind me and i'm surprised i could take part at all. that about. 12 kilometers to go i'm already dead beat.
by the 30 kilometer point the water supplies had run out as the 10 kilometer and half marathon courses followed the same route it was the last bottle of water i got for the rest of the race. by the time i got to the finish line i felt like i was drying out from the inside but there was no water there either. because. i usually rest after a marathon and try to do something good for my body and i especially needed to do
that now but as in 2013 my 2017 trip was also crammed full of information and sightseeing stops so instead of going back to our hotel we grabbed our bags and set off on a 4 hour drive across the country. we're . our destination muzhik young north korea's only ski resort it's located in the east of the country. this modern hotel is part of the resort. in the evening we went to a nearby restaurant for a korean barbecue. after a few bottles of rice wine and
a really nice dinner we asked our guides and the restaurant staff to sing karaoke for us. they performed our iran. the. is. our iran is the name of a folk song about a young woman who sings to her lover in the hope that he will return to her as soon as possible. it's actually a very normal story and of course it expresses the suffering of separation in this case between 2 people that's been good for 2 reasons but i mention this concept but if you then apply it to the situation of the 2 koreas nowadays are iran creates
a common ground based on a shared national identity it was the end of the minds i'm kind of the answer of causes this demands and that is. very wrong is a very important symbol for both north and south korea. at the 2018 winter olympics in pyung chang it was the common anthem for the athletes from both career. yes. one of the biggest south korean t.v. stations is called our year on t.v. and north korea has the our iran gymnastics festival that we visited in 2013. both are named after this old folk song. i was. at the kong box supermarket we got a glimpse into the lives of a small segment of the north korean population it's one of only 3 supermarkets
selling foreign products mainly from thailand or china and you can only pay with the north korean currency the won that was different because otherwise we always had to pay and euro's or $1.00 was. the. least the was. besides the supermarkets some other things in north korea seem to have changed too although we could only judge this via appearances in 2013 for example many houses and pyongyang were gray and infested with mold whereas in 2017 they had been painted in peach and turquoise hues. of the. the people were also wearing brighter colors and
a wider range of styles and we also saw more international sports brands in the street. the larger portions of food also gave us the impression that things had changed since 2013 we even saw u.s. products on sale. not everything we saw in north korea was bad although of course there was plenty to worry about. but some things were really beautiful and some were just too good to be true. you could still feel the tension and sense that people weren't saying what was on their minds but sometimes it also felt strangely intimate. was it because we were together all the time or because i had like my guides with guard lists of the regime or their world view. i'm glad i've seen north korea for
myself at least as far as the constant surveillance allowed. all the impressions experiences and encounters we brought home were the very reason we had to go there in the 1st place. and changing forests to invite visitors to dream. huge mountains that bear witness to ancient times. rail lines to wine trying to deter us from a. bohemian switzerland by rail. 30 minutes long t.w.
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